Using biodiversity collections

Researchers have estimated rates of reproduction and survival for the marbled murrelet by “comparing the ratios of birds in different age groups using 170 specimens collected between 1892 and 1922 housed in the collections of the California Academy of Sciences and the UC Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology … with values predicted from comparison with other bird species, and with contemporary rates obtained from murrelets they captured at sea and from their mark-recapture studies.” The results suggested that birth rates were almost 10 times higher for this endangered seabird 100 years ago than they are today. Read all about it here. That’s a very creative use of a biodiversity collection to explain the recent decline in numbers of this species, and its conservation status. Has something similar been done with herbarium and/or plant genebank collections? I can’t think of any examples, but they must be out there…

Wild food plants of Zimbabwe

According to this article in the Harare Herald, the Kellogg Foundation will be supporting research by University of Zimbabwe scientists into “wild and famine plant foods, their preparation and preservation (and) nutrient analysis … to enhance livelihood security.”

Core blimey!

I spent the last few days in Portesham, Dorset (thanks, Lorna and Geoff!), which made it all the more weird to come across this article reprinted in a newspaper in Dubai, where I had to transit for a few hours on the way out there. But it does show that you can still discover (or re-discover) new things even in such a well-researched crop as apples in the UK. Of course, for every upbeat story, there’s a depressing one.

Prioritizing African protected areas

This EU-funded project has looked at all the national parks and reserves in Africa and assessed the contribution each makes to conserving biodiversity as part of the overall system of protected areas. Really an incredible job. Mainly dealing with animals, however, so I wonder if something similar could be done with things like wild crop relatives or something. Also, could these techniques be applied to in situ crop conservation?

The diverse crops of Kenya

I’ll be away for about a week so blogging might be a bit light, but I couldn’t resist mentioning the following four stories that were in the print edition of the Daily Nation this morning before leaving:

  1. A new climbing bean variety developed by the University of Nairobi and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute has been released and will be ready for commercial production by June.
  2. Coconut vendors in Mombasa are set to have access to a new technology (developed by FAO in collaboration with the Intermediate Technology Development Institute) for keeping coconut juice fresh for up to 3 weeks.
  3. The vice-chairman of the Rift Valley branch of the Kenya Horticultural Society asked local universities to start breeding new flower varieties rather than using material from the Netherlands and Israel.
  4. A group of Nyeri farmers have started selling their coffee directly to international dealers rather than through the traditional central auction system.

I thought the range of these articles really gave an good impression of the great variety of Kenyan agriculture and agricultural research.

See you again soon…